Do you know D.C.?
Get our free newsletter to stay in the know about local D.C.
Soon after French-American pianist Jacky Terrasson released his 1995 American debut, laudatory press began to appear. He garnered scores of rave reviews, and the New York Times Magazine named him one of the 30 artists— age 30 and under—most likely to change American culture over the next 30 years. No pressure, then, for his follow-up, Reach—or at least none that Terrasson lets disturb his music. As on his debut, Terrasson mixes wildly original pieces with standards, which he both pays homage to and shreds with abandon. On the classic “I Should Care,” Terrasson’s dynamic range is so wide that the notes alternately conjure images of leaves climbing a spindly trellis and a giant redwood toppling to the earth. Like those of Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk, the pianists to whom “Care” is dedicated, Terrasson’s hands float around the keyboard with amazing fluidity, then crash into it with great force. While “Care” spotlights the pianist’s intense flourishes, the title track (a medley with “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” that features his most sincere, melodic playing) proves him more than merely a crazed showman. Unlike the pickup sidemen most young leaders grab for their albums, Terrasson’s longtime bassist Ugonna Okegwo and recently departed drummer Leon Parker demonstrate what special music a practiced and intuitive band can create. Perhaps nowhere is the band’s interplay more skilled than on “Happy Man.” Beginning as a sedate, meandering number and growing into a backbeat-heavy groover, the piece sets up a breathtaking bipolar flow. Piano trios often don’t have enough charisma to hide the absence of a lead instrument, but Terrasson has more charm, energy, and talent than most big bands. He plays Blues Alley, Wednesday, March 6.